speaks out on wwl radio over her recent firing.
Jindal delivers loud, clear, frightening message
Last Modified: Saturday, March 10, 2012 7:36 PM
Gov. Bobby Jindal delivered a loud, clear, yet frightening message last week.
On Tuesday, Martha Manuel, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs, testified before the House Appropriations Committee that the governor’s plan to shift her offices to the state Department of Health and Hospitals would not be in the best interest of elderly residents.
She said Jindal never consulted her about his plan and only learned about it when she saw the office’s budget had been moved in the governor’s budget proposal.
By Wednesday morning, Manuel was unemployed, unceremoniously fired via a phone call from Tammy Woods, Jindal’s community programs director.
Asked later that day about the termination, Jindal said he had decided to go in a different direction.
Bottom line: Manuel, who was appointed to the position by Jindal in February, 2011 and made $88,587, is out of a job.
All appointees like Manuel serve at the pleasure of the governor. It’s always been that way in Louisiana and always will be. But her ouster on the eve of the legislative session’s opening sends a chilling message — dissenting opinions by Jindal’s department heads and undersecretaries will not be tolerated.
That is reminiscent of former Gov. Huey Long. Or maybe better yet, the politburo.
Here’s the commandment issued from the Governor’s Mansion Wednesday: everyone shall sing the same notes from the Bobby Jindal hymnal.
The question is what impact does Manual’s firing have on officials like Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson or Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Sherri LeBas or Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham? Will they give forthright testimony at legislative hearings? Will they freely express their knowledge about their departments, or will they kowtow to the governor’s line?
Jindal’s “my-way-or-the-highway” stance demeans the political process and insults members of the state Legislature, who, like the governor, are elected by the people.
If department heads or undersecretaries cannot candidly testify before Senate and House committees without the threat of reprisal from the governor, the hearings become a farce. If that’s the case, they might as well be canceled.
Governors in Louisiana have always had nearly unlimited power, a fact Jindal seems to have grasped in time for his second term.
Voters gave Jindal a 66 percent election victory and there is no question that many aspects of Louisiana government are in dire need of the reform he wants to engineer. However, that reform should not be carried out by governmental micromanaging, muzzling or intimidation.
We believe public officials who promote change should be prepared — and willing — to defend their policies and proposals through honest give-and-take. That is how competent staffers serving any executive enhance the decision-making process. Jindal appears to have forgotten that fact of political life.
Huey Long Jr. Or Bobby The Kingfish Jindal
By: Jeff Crouere
Published: 13 March 2012
Louisiana is a state with a troubled history of political corruption and cronyism. While our state is blessed with abundant natural resources, wonderful people, a great culture and of course fabulous cuisine, it is also saddled with a woeful history of politicians who exploited the state for their personal gain.
With better political leadership, Louisiana would be in much better economic condition today. Unfortunately, our population is stagnant and our state has lost one quarter of its congressional delegation in the last two decades. Why have businesses and people left? One major reason is our corrupt political system.
Look at the recent media coverage. As our former Governor finished his prison term, a plethora of other Louisiana politicians faced indictments and prison sentences. A former congressman awaits his appeal process and a possible thirteen year prison sentence and many of his family members and close associates have also been convicted.
One of our major problems is that Louisiana does not have an independent legislature. The Governor wields way too much power in our state from controlling the budget to picking the leaders of the legislature. Without checks and balances, the Governor reigns with almost absolute power and that inevitably leads to corruption. When Governor Bobby Jindal chose former Edwin Edwards confidante John Alario as the State Senate President, some good government advocates were outraged.
Yet, it was not surprising, realizing that Jindal only cares about his personal political agenda, not ideology or conservative principles. Alario will help his agenda sail through the Senate. The House will follow suit, under the leadership of another Jindal selection, as few lawmakers will have the courage to tangle with a Governor who controls the budget and how much money will flow into their districts.
Jindal wants to convey an image of a Governor in charge, as this will burnish his national political reputation. Thus, he will be in better shape for a potential GOP vice presidential bid or a cabinet post in a Republican administration. As Jindal pursues his national goals, he has been exposed as a thin skinned politician who will not tolerate any dissent. Just ask former Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs, Martha Manuel. The Governor moved her department into the State Department of Health and Hospitals without giving her any input. When legislators asked her under oath in a committee hearing about her opinion of the move, she said it would be detrimental to the elderly. She was fired by Jindal the next morning for giving honest answers to a legislative committee. Obviously Jindal wants his administration to sing the exact same tune regardless of personal opinion, the facts or their duty to tell the truth.
As American Press columnist Jim Beam noted, Manuel was “unceremoniously fired via a phone call from Tammy Woods, Jindal’s community programs director.” Sadly, this is not the only instance of the Governor squelching First Amendment rights.
As reported by Chad Rogers of the Dead Pelican, the LSU System President John Lombardi issued a “gag order” forbidding any system employee from expressing grievances about budget cuts. He said the Governor “would appreciate” no complaints from any of the serfs who toil in any of his universities. While our state universities supposedly teach about freedom of speech and constitutional rights, they obviously don’t exist in our state government.
According to legislative and political watchdog C.B. Forgotston, “Jindal and his minion Lombardi have effectively disenfranchised a class of people in Louisiana from exercising their rights as granted under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
So, when he is not dreaming of national political glory, Governor Jindal is busy firing an honest appointee and enforcing a dictatorial ban on free speech. In other words, state workers better shut up or read from the script. According to Beam, Jindal’s actions are “reminiscent of former Gov. Huey Long. Or maybe better yet, the politburo.” Like Huey Long, Jindal is focused on national political aspirations. Like Huey Long, Jindal wants to use his “accomplishments in Louisiana” to improve his national political standing. Like Huey Long, Jindal does not tolerate any dissent among his underlings and it is his way or the highway. Like Huey Long, Jindal views the legislators as his subjects that he “can buy and sell like a sack of potatoes.” As Beam points out, the Governor’s attitude “sends a chilling message” that “demeans the political process.”
While some of the Governor’s reform proposals may benefit the state, his power hungry actions are very troubling. In our state, healthy debate is essential and all sides need to be heard. Committee hearings must include honest testimony from government officials, rather than talking points from the Governor’s spokesperson.
While Huey Long left an unmistakable imprint on the state with his vast array of capital projects, he also left an unfortunate stain of political corruption. Today, as our state tries to recover from its sordid political past, the last thing Louisiana needs is another Huey Long.